Sexual Jokes Insufficient to Make Out Hostile Work Environment Claim

While sexual jokes in the workplace may, under certain circumstances, give rise to a plausible hostile work environment sexual harassment claim, that is not always the case. A recent decision, Cafiero v. Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc., No. 12-CV-01303, 2021 WL 5630373 (E.D.Mo. Dec. 1, 2021), is one example where allegations of such conduct was insufficient to sustain a legal claim (there, under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA)).

From the decision:

Plaintiff’s hostile work environment allegations primarily consist of legal conclusions. Plaintiff does specifically claim that Coworkers, also male, “made frequent jokes and comments of a sexual nature” and one Coworker “accused Plaintiff of being racist.” Plaintiff has not explained how these comments amounted to discrimination on the basis of Plaintiff’s gender, nor has he offered meaningful detail regarding the nature of such comments. These are precisely the sort of isolated incidents, moreover, that do not state a plausible hostile work environment under the MHRA because they are not sufficiently pervasive to affect a term, condition, or privilege of employment. See LeGrand v. Area Res. for Cmty. and Human Servs., 394 F.3d 1098 (8th Cir. 2005) (holding three isolated incidents over nine-month period were not so pervasive as to poison work environment); Hoaglin v. Hyvee Inc., No. 6:18-3262-CV-RK, 2019 WL 2028559, at *4 (W.D. Mo. May 8, 2019) (citation omitted) (“More than a few isolated incidents are required.”); M.W. by and through K.W., 605 S.W.3d at 413 (three brief instances of misconduct of no more than a few minutes each did not state plausible claim for hostile work environment). [Citations omitted.]

Accordingly, the court dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim because he failed to state a plausible claim for relief.

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